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South Korea's ethanol imports jump 39% on year to 261,584 mt in 2017

Singapore (Platts)--11 Jan 2018 945 am EST/1445 GMT


South Korea's ethanol imports increased 39% year on year to 261,584 mt in 2017, according to data released Thursday by Korea Customs Service.

Imports of denatured ethanol surged by 238% over the year to 117,782 mt in 2017. The US remained the key import origin last year, accounting for 78% of total imports, followed by Pakistan at 10% and South Africa at 6%.

Undenatured ethanol imports however, fell 6% year on year to 143,802 mt in 2017. Australia overtook Brazil as the largest supplier of undenatured ethanol last year, accounting for 44% of total imports, followed by Cambodia at 16% and Pakistan at 14%.

Volumes from Brazil accounted for only 9% of the total undenatured ethanol imports, down sharply from 49% in the previous year.

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South Korea has been importing more undenatured ethanol form Australia since December last year because of more favorable prices compared with Brazilian and Pakistani industrial grade ethanol.

Grade B ethanol FOB Santos/Paranagua prices averaged $540/cu m in 2017, while freight rate to Ulsan ranged between $55/cu m and $65/cu m. This takes the landed price of grade B ethanol from Brazil into South Korea close to $600/cu m, S&P Global Platts data showed.

In comparison, grade B ethanol into South Korea averaged $560/cu m CFR Ulsan in 2017, Platts data showed.

In December, South Korea imported 33,922 mt of ethanol, up 5.5% from November, customs data showed.

Of this, 57.7% was denatured ethanol and the rest undenatured ethanol.

The main origins for denatured ethanol imports in December were the US (79%), Pakistan (13%) and South Africa (5%). For undenatured ethanol, 62% of imports came from Australia, 25% from Cambodia and 7% from Pakistan.

On the export front, South Korea exported 24,750 mt of ethanol in 2017, up 14% year on year. Undenatured ethanol accounted for 92% of the total, with almost all volumes headed to Japan. The rest were denatured ethanol, of which 94% was exported to the Philippines and 4% to Thailand.

In December, South Korea's ethanol exports fell 20.5% month on month to 1,612 mt. Undenatured ethanol accounted for 99.8% of total exports -- almost all of which headed to Japan.

--Srijan Kanoi, srijan.kanoi@spglobal.com

--Edited by Irene Tang, irene.tang@spglobal.com



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